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‘Orange Is the New Black’ is now a comedy — for award season, anyway

(L-R) Danielle Brooks, Lin Tucci, Natasha Lyonne, Yael Stone, Jackie Cruz, Emma Myles and Laverne Cox in a scene from Netflix’s “Orange is the New Black” Season 2. (Jessica Miglio for Netflix.)

This is where the word “dramedy” stops being a useful descriptor and starts getting confusing. Netflix has decided that its hit series “Orange Is the New Black,” the critically-adored dramedy that debuted last summer, officially falls in the comedy category — for the purpose of award season, anyway. Previously, the show about life in a women’s prison had been submitted to the Golden Globes and SAG Awards as a drama.

That’s no longer the case: “‘Orange Is the New Black’ is moving to the comedy category for all awards consideration moving forward,” a network rep confirmed.

Kate Mulgrew (L) and Lorraine Toussaint (R) in a scene from Netflix’s “Orange is the New Black” Season 2. (JoJo Whilden for Netflix.) Kate Mulgrew (L) and Lorraine Toussaint (R) in a scene  from Season 2. (JoJo Whilden for Netflix.)

Why is that? When we asked, the rep pointed us to a statement Netflix released to the Hollywood Reporter: “Creator Jenji Kohan’s vision has been uncompromising, and while the show tackles real issues, it does so through its use of humor,” it read. “‘Orange’ uniquely blends comedy and drama in its hourlong episodes and simply defies standard categorization.”

Well, by “defying standard categorization,” they could mean that the show does really well when it’s considered a comedy series, and not so much as a drama. When submitted as a comedy, “Orange” landed multiple nominations at the Writers Guild of America Awards and won several Satellite Awards including best comedy series. On the opposite end of the spectrum, “Orange” got left in the dust when submitted as a drama, picking up one lone nomination (Taylor Schilling for lead actress) at the Golden Globes, and was completely snubbed at the SAG Awards.

So, Netflix reversed course before the Emmys: Smart move. It was puzzling why the show had ever been in the drama category. As a dark comedy following the interwoven stories of various women in lock-up, it usually lands more on the “funny” side, with quite a few one-liners in between tragic backstories.

Plus, there’s much more tough competition in the drama world: At the Globes, Schilling, who does an excellent job portraying the fish-out-of-water lead character, had to compete against Julianna Margulies of “The Good Wife,” Kerry Washington of “Scandal,” Tatiana Maslany of “Orphan Black,” and eventual winner Robin Wright of “House of Cards.” Schilling had no real shot. (We feel like she could have taken Amy Poehler, who won for actress in a comedy.)

The category switch as a purely strategic move isn’t unprecedented. FX’s anthology “American Horror Story” has racked up the Emmy nominations while submitting as a miniseries instead of a drama. However, this will add to the the debate about what shows should truly be entered in which categories, up for discussion ever since Showtime’s “Nurse Jackie” started winning awards for being a comedy, which even star Edie Falco found bizarre.

“Oh this is just the most ridiculous thing that has ever, ever happened in the history of this lovely awards show,” Falco said while picking up the trophy for lead actress in a comedy in 2011. “I’m not funny!” she added, making all the other nominees feel just great about themselves.

Taylor Schilling in a scene from Netflix’s “Orange is the New Black” Season 2. Does this look funny to you? (JoJo Whilden for Netflix.)

Read more entertainment news.

Emily Yahr covers pop culture and entertainment for the Post. Follow her on Twitter @EmilyYahr.



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Emily Yahr · March 14, 2014

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